As has been pointed out on a number of occasions, the 2020 election is like no other in recent memory.
Those of us heading to the polls on Nov. 3 will do so with our masks on and our bodies at least six feet apart from the next closest person. Many others are voting via mail-in ballots. All of us are anxious for the outcomes to be announced.
But an election is supposed to be the beginning, not the end. And for those who ultimately are successful in their bids for seats in Hartford, a very uncertain future awaits. It’s what each does after Nov. 3 that will matter most.
Last week, the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut delivered some sobering news. According to their calculations, the state isn’t likely to fully recover from the pandemic until 2030. That’s a full decade of climbing out of a hole it took approximately seven months to dig.
Of course, predictions can be wrong. Things could be significantly better than what the analysts at UConn are anticipating. But if nothing else, such dire forecasts should send a very clear message to our elected officials: Serious times are going to require serious people.
Whether those heading to Hartford in 2021 are grizzled veterans of Connecticut politics or first-timers ready to get their feet wet, the mission will be the same. The state will have to find a way out of this mess, and that work will have to begin right away. There is no end-date to COVID-19. We don’t know if or when the virus will recede into the background. Those tasked with helping the state venture into the future will have to employ the tried-and-trusted adage, “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”
We can all hope that a viable vaccine is developed, or that treatments advance to such a degree as to make COVID an easily-managed illness for even those at most risk of its impact. For now, however, leaders must operate under the assumption that the virus, in its current form, will be with us for a while.
What’s the path forward, if that’s the case? How do we balance safety and the need to operate as a fully-functional society? And how does the state deal with everything from unemployment benefits to business aid? These are not easy questions to answer, yet those who emerge victorious next Tuesday will be asked to answer many of them. How they do so may very well determine whether UConn’s recent predictions turn out to be overly pessimistic or sadly prescient.
There will be disagreements. Politics is about disagreements. Ideas should be raised and debated. All sides should be heard. But as long as those disagreements are in good faith, with everyone involved seeking the best path forward for Connecticut, then the process will work. If, however, the squabbles become purely exercises in politics, then we all will lose, and the state can ill-afford any more losses.
The voters will have their say on Tuesday. Those who win will celebrate. Those who lose will take stock of what could have been done differently. But Nov. 3 is only the beginning. What counts is everything from Nov. 4, on.